Sizing Up Bob Barr

Mark at Publius Endures takes a look at the possibility of Bob Barr as the Libertarian Party standard-bearer:

The first thing I would say is that the LP could do a lot worse than Congressman Barr. Although he most certainly had a less-than-libertarian track record in Congress on things ranging from the Drug War to gay rights, he has clearly experienced a change of heart on many or most of those issues. Many libertarians are rightly suspicious of this conversion.

I can say with a pretty strong degree of certainty that those suspicions are incorrect. Although I have no idea what the former Congressman personally thinks of gay rights on a local level these days, he has quite clearly come out against the Federal Marriage Amendment, and did so almost immediately upon its introduction- and before he joined the LP.

As others have noted, he has also been fairly open about the fact that he has changed his position completely on the War on Drugs. In addition, he is now an extremely vocal opponent of the Patriot Act.

Many libertarians have noted that although Barr, as a Congressman, took several significant steps to weaken the Act, those steps were horribly insufficient. While this is true, it’s worth noting that the Patriot Act was passed just weeks after 9/11, at a time when rational thinking was (understandably) almost impossible to come by; the emotions of that day were just too fresh in our memories. It was clear to most people that there had been horrible failures of government, and that those failures led to the attacks; thus, steps needed to be taken to prevent future attacks. For the average non-libertarian at the time (a group in which I include myself), and I believe, even for many scared libertarians, the Patriot Act seemed to be a strong step in that direction, regardless of its flaws. That Barr – at a time when he wasn’t even a libertarian (small “l” or otherwise) – was one of the few people rational enough to see that it went too far and needed to be pulled back is to me an extremely strong argument in his favor.

Moreover, Barr has done an extraordinary amount of work to try and weaken or end the Patriot Act since he left Congress. His dedication to civil liberties in recent years has been far more than just a token effort done to bolster his libertarian credentials; frankly, his record on that front in recent years is something that ought to be the envy of just about every single libertarian and Progressive.


On balance, I believe Barr will be a more credible proponent of liberty than Ron Paul was, although he will lack the glamor and media attention that come with a run in a highly competitive, high-profile Republican primary campaign.

Regarding the Iraq War, Barr will be able to speak in a knowledgeable way that Ron Paul could not, which will give him far more credibility on the issue than Paul was able to get outside of anti-war activist circles. As such, he will be much less susceptible to charges of just being “anti-troop” or of simply “blaming America first.”

In addition, he will not have the obsession with the Federal Reserve that Paul had, which hurt his ability to appeal to mainstream voters.

On gun rights, there are few people in the country who can speak with greater credibility than Congressman Barr.

Sounds good to me.

  • tarran

    In addition, he will not have the obsession with the Federal Reserve that Paul had, which hurt his ability to appeal to mainstream voters.

    To me, this is not accurate. Ron Paul’s obsession with the Federal Reserve did not hurt him with voters. It hurt him with pundits, who assume that the Federal Reserve is a needed institution and that only moonbats would question this proven thing. Most voters were willing to give him a hearing.

    I on the other hand think that Paul was right. In this post, I explained why.

  • UCrawford


    I think it hurt him with mainstream voters mainly because he harped on it all the time, made it a central issue of his campaign, and very few of them actually cared about it. You can make the argument that it’s an important issue all you want (and yes, it probably is) but if it’s not an issue the average voter cares about you might as well be running on a platform of building an interstellar defense system to protect us against alien invasion…you’re only going to appeal to a small subset of voters and most of the rest will ignore you.

    For now, I’ll probably vote for Barr. He’s got as much credibility and experience as McCain or Obama and I like most of his issues.

  • Shane Savoie

    Great article…This is one of surprisingly few LP friendly sites that isn’t glaring at Barr for being a Republican when that was what he was elected as. For all of his faults, Bob Barr is the best candidate for the LP this year. Whether or not it is a good idea for Barr is a better question, and he seems to be saying “Damn the torpedoes!”
    If he’s willing to sacrifice his mainstream credibility to raise the profile of the LP and our issues, aren’t we a bit stupid to fight it?

  • UCrawford


    As long as he avoids adding Mike Gravel to the ticket, Barr’s okay by me :)

  • Tom

    The only thing I need to know about Bob Barr is that he wasted millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars to determine if the president got a blowjob. Nothing he does or says can ever take away that, because it goes beyond politics to show what kind of man he really is.

    If Barr gets the LP nomination, I will not vote for him.

  • Joshua Holmes

    I doubt Ron Paul ever got much notice from the mainstream voter beyond the ubiquitous banners on interstate overpasses. Mainstream voters just aren’t involved in the primary process.

  • Doug Mataconis


    And the people who are following a candidate like Obama are what ? Non mainstream voters ?

    I think the real truth is that mainstream Republicans heard what Ron Paul had to say and rejected it.

  • MikeF

    I agree Doug, mainstream Republicans didn’t want to hear it.

    They now only care about how big your cross is.

  • Xenman

    Barr needs to strike a balance between leftwing and rightwing Libertarians. So far, so good. But if the Anti-War zealots of the Libertarian Left get their claws into him, and force him to take Cindy Sheehan Anti-Military/Anti-Victory positions, Barr will lose a great deal of support among libertarian Republicans and potential conservative voters disgruntled with McCain.

    There’s much more opportunity for Barr among “fiscally conservative/socially tolerant” Pro-Defense Goldwater-type voters, than with the Anti-War Blame America First crowd.

  • Mark

    Whether or not the Fed is an important issue, the fact is that it’s not an issue that many voters have any knowledge about. By focusing his campaign so heavily on that issue, Paul mostly just made a number of voters aware that the Federal Reserve even exists. It was a terrible argument for his candidacy as a result; he did much better in terms of gaining supporters when he focused on more tangible issues like the war, torture, and – perhaps most of all – the size of the federal government.

    I disagree with Paul on the Fed issue, but I don’t think his position is totally off-the-wall. My problem is that he spent an inordinate amount of valuable campaign time on an issue about which a microscopic portion of the population is concerned.

  • Greg

    Today, when I learned that Bob Barr had launched an exploratory group, I visited his site, donated to his campaign, visited the Libertarian Party site, joined, and established a monthly contribution. I still support Ron Paul, but since he has no intent to run as a 3rd Party candidate, I’m now looking to Bob Barr. I’ve seen him speak and he exudes competency, libertarian values, and authority. He has been very supportive of Ron Paul himself. I hope to see Jesse Ventura join Bob Barr as his VP running mate.

  • Mark

    Here’s a question. If (when?) the internet becomes overwhelmed by former Paul supporters who have joined the Bob Barr bandwagon, what do we call them?

    (Keeping in mind that I kinda like the guy, that there is about a 90% chance I will vote for him, and that I think he is a much more credible candidate than Paul).

    My proposal: Barr-istas.

    But I’m willing to take further suggestions.

  • Erik

    While I agree with Tom re: Barr’s waste of time/money on Clinton’s sex life, if he’s on the ballot what am I to do, vote for “warmonger” McCain or “change-nothing-that-matters” Obama ? So I’d hold my nose & vote for him as opposed to one of the other stinkers.

    Also I disagree with Xenman; properly done the anti-war issue (and Barr’s statements opposing preventative war in general) has the possibility of igniting the kind of following that would be hard for the MSM to disregard. He doesn’t have to drop or soft-pedal his fiscal conservative views, or for that matter start sounding like C. Sheehan to become the preferred candidate of the strongly anti-Iraq war crowd. He just has to keep saying what he already is, and not back down.

    It would be a shame if the apparently never-ending silly infighting in the LP doomed them to irrelevancy once again.